Britain’s wealthiest towns gain most from government’s heat pump subsidy scheme.

17th Apr 2024


Wealthiest places in Britain – including parts of Devon - benefit most from government heat pump scheme when compared to socially deprived counterparts such as Blackpool.

  • New analysis highlights major inequalities in who is benefitting from the subsidies – with those less well-off finding it much harder to switch to greener energy options.
  • The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) is calling for an urgent reassessment by government, with disparities a pressing concern ahead of key elections.

New analysis, published today, by the leading energy trade body, Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), has revealed every region in England and Wales sees wealthy areas, including those associated with holiday homes, receiving a disproportionate number of subsidised greener heating appliances compared to their less wealthy neighbours. Using data on Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) approvals, against local authority population numbers, EUA found that across England the most subsidised local authority (South Hams in Devon) received over fifty times the subsidised heating appliances compared to the least subsidised authority outside London, Blackpool.

With the average cost of a heat pump installation being £13,300, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), which offers grants of £7,500 to be taken off the full cost of a heat pump, allowing homeowners to pay £5,800 towards the clean heating solution. This disproportionately benefits well-off individuals who can afford the out-of-pocket expense and makes it more difficult for those from low-income households to switch to greener energy options.

Affluent areas often associated with holiday homes – including Cornwall, parts of Devon, Northumberland and the Derbyshire Dales – also receive substantially more support than more socially-deprived counterparts across England and Wales, highlighting how the net zero transition exploits a rift between the wealthiest and least wealthy in society.

Commenting on the data, Mike Foster CEO of Energy and Utilities Alliance said:

This analysis confirms our worst fears about this scheme. It benefits the well-off in this country, while completely disregarding the average hard-working family who do not have a spare £6K to spend on clean heating. “

Ignoring these disparities does a disservice to the principles of levelling up and environmental justice. Every penny spent on the net zero transition needs to be scrutinised for fairness and impact, ensuring all communities benefit, not just the privileged few.”

Places like Blackpool, where there is a by-election next month, are clearly second-best when it comes to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. Politicians should not turn a blind eye to such inequalities just because they think it is net zero policy. They should be doing the opposite, scrutinising every penny spent on net zero to makes sure that it is spent fairly and wisely. That’s the only way to reassure voters about the changes expected.”

Looking at the full analysis, across England it looks suspiciously like areas where holiday homes are prevalent are major beneficiaries of the subsidies, compared to inner-city or urban areas. The biggest recipient local authorities are South Hams in Devon, North Devon, Mid Devon, Cornwall and the Derbyshire Dales. I’m sure the taxpayers of Blackpool, Burnley, Sandwell and Dudley, Luton and Liverpool are less than happy to fund these cash handouts with their taxes because that is exactly what is happening.“

Full data table is available here

  • In the North-West region, Blackpool has installed 2.8 heat pumps under the BUS per 100,000 residents, compared to Westmorland, in the same region, with 77.8 heat pumps per 100,000 residents.
  • In the North-East region, South Tyneside installed 6.1 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to Northumberland 57.3.
  • In Yorkshire and Humber region, Kingston upon Hull installed 13 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 57.8 in East Riding.
  • In the East Midlands, Leicester installed 9.4 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 117.1 for the Derbyshire Dales.
  • In the West Midlands, both Dudley and Sandwell saw 5.2 heat pumps installed per 100,000 compared to 101.2 for Herefordshire.
  • In the East region, Luton installed 3.1 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 108.5 for East Cambridgeshire.
  • In London, Tower Hamlets installed 1.8 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 26.2 for Richmond upon Thames.
  • In the South East region, Portsmouth installed 3.8 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 96.7 for Winchester.
  • In the South West region, Plymouth installed 6.4 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 144.8 for South Hams.
  • In Wales, Torfaen installed 4.3 heat pumps per 100,000 residents compared to 109 for Powys.
  • The Boiler Upgrade Scheme runs from 2022 to 2025, with £150 million a year available to spend. The maximum grant for a heat pump installation is £7500.
  • The funding from 2025 to 2028 is increased to £1.5 billion over three years.
  • The BUS can also be paid to self-build homes, currently 1 in 6 grants are paid to self-builders